Stephen Daggett, Defense Budget Expert
Stephen Daggett, 63, one of the nation's top defense-budget experts, died of cancer at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C. Tuesday.
An 11-year battle with multiple myeloma, a bone-marrow cancer, had so weakened Mr. Daggett's immune system that it could no longer fight even minor infections, Sandra Ginsberg, his oncologist said. As a result he died from an infection from a small cut to his foot.
Mr. Daggett began his 40-year study of defense budgets while protesting the Vietnam War in the 1970's, first as an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and then as a graduate student in political science at the University of Michigan, where he was active in the Indochina Peace Campaign. "We cared about the continued violence being used against the Vietnamese people," wrote Judith Ezekiel, a friend from that era, in an email. "We wrote leaflets about the University's involvement in developing weapons that mutilated and killed civilians and about the kidnapping of children for adoption in America. We hosted the visit of Jane Fonda and Holly Near."
After graduate school, Mr. Daggett deepened and broadened his defense-budget expertise at several private nonprofits. He was a senior analyst for the Center for Defense Information and then was a senior analyst for the Committee for National Security from 1986 to 1989, where he specialized in U.S. defense policy, the U.S. military budget, and strategic arms control policy. In 1989, he joined the Congressional Research Service where he specialized in the defense budget on which he produced an array of reports that were analytically sophisticated but also were readily accessible to time-strapped congressional members and staff.
In the course of more than two decades at CRS, Mr. Daggett authored hundreds of reports and memoranda, conducted briefings for members of Congress and their staff, and testified on several occasions before congressional committees, analyzing such subjects as the cost of various overseas military operations, the impact of inflation on the defense budget, and the effects of the post-Cold War military drawdown. He also applied his critical skills to analyses of such diverse issues as just-war theory and congressional tactics for constraining U.S. military activities abroad. He has served as a consultant to the Council on Economic Priorities in New York for a project analyzing the Strategic Defense Initiative. He is also the author of a Capitol Learning Audio Course How to Read and Decipher the DoD Budget: A Primer for Defense Industry Professionals.
Listening to NPR on the way home from work one night Steven's brother Brian Daggett heard someone explaining the costs of the Iraq war. "Suddenly I realized it was Steve," Brian Daggett recalled. "I almost drove off the road."
In recent months, Mr. Daggett's analysis focused on the issues presented to Congress by the effect on the Pentagon of long-term deficit reduction efforts and the increasing importance for U.S. security of Asia and the Pacific.
Ultimately, Mr. Daggett's broad perspective, rigorous analyses and personal credibility led him to play "a pivotal role in Congressional deliberations on defense budgets," according to CRS analyst Pat Towell, a colleague and long-time friend. "If you want to impact the defense budget debate, you'd better take account of Steve's analysis," Mr. Towell added. "That's the map of reality most serious players use."
In addition to his professional work, he taught parenting classes through the YMCA's Youth and Family Services programs for many years. He was active in River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation for 16 years, particularly as a Sunday school teacher. RRUUC awarded him the Muriel Davies award for excellence in teaching in 2008.
Mr. Daggett is survived by his wife, Diana Gilpatrick, and two sons: Thomas, 16 and Sam, 12, of Potomac, Maryland; and by his brother, Brian Daggett, of Wellesley, Massachusetts.
The family plans a memorial service at 4 pm Saturday, April 21 at River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 6301 River Road, in Bethesda, Maryland. A reception will follow. All are welcome.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests you send donations to the River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 6301 River Road, in Bethesda, Maryland, the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation , or the Children's Inn at NIH .